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One of life’s simple pleasures is relaxing in a garden filled with beautiful plants. The ‘outdoor room’ is often the best room in the house, a retreat from the hassles of the working day. But what if you or someone in your home is an asthmatic or suffers from plant allergies? It might seem an insurmountable problem, but there is a solution. Rid your garden of the troublemakers and choose plants that are safe for asthmatics and allergy sufferers. You may lose some plants you love, but you will gain peace of mind.

The first step to a safe garden is to identify those trees, bushes, and flowers in your garden which cause a reaction. The chief culprits are plants which produce airborne pollens. Among the flowers look out for amaranth, sunflowers, alyssum and chrysanthemums, while climbing vines like jasmine, lilac and wisteria are other hazards. It is these pollens which invade human airways and cause hay fever. There are many non-allergenic flowers to replace them, These are self-pollinating plants which have male and female components that fertilize themselves – no pollen needed. Bulbs like hyacinth, daffodil and snowdrop are excellent allergy-free choices and are always welcome in the garden, Other garden favorites such as carnations, geraniums and pansies are also wise choices for beds and borders. Herb lovers should avoid chamomile and wormwood but can grow thyme, lavender, rosemary and other aromatic herbs as much as they like.

A rose garden is a constant delight but asthmatics and allergy sufferers have to make good rose choices to be able to enjoy the. Some roses can cause a reaction if they have an abundance of pollen or are highly scented. But there are many varieties that will cause no trouble. A favorite in allergy free gardens is the glorious double pink Cecil Brunner, but most roses register from 1-2 on the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale (OPALS) where a low number is an assurance that a plant will not cause allergies.

Trees are more complex, as only the male trees, which send out pollen to fertilize their female counterparts, cause allergic reactions. You may be able to keep some pollen producing trees if you can identify which are male and which are female and remove only the male trees, pollen will still be a hazard from other trees in the neighborhood. If you are planning a new garden, or want to remove trees which cause problems, avoid trees which need a male and female to pollinate, like olive, oak or elm. Check with your local nursery to make the right choices. Fruit trees like apple, plum and cherry are good choices, providing spring blossoms and fruit, while citrus trees are pollinated by insects so are safe to grow.

Keeping your garden free of weeds can also be beneficial to asthma and allergy sufferers. Weeds are notorious for causing allergies. There is even a weed called the asthma weed, a Mediterranean plant that flourishes in sunny climates. Weeds need to be completely eradicated, for they will just grow back if any root remains. Any plant that sends out seeds on the wind to pollinate is a likely cause of allergies, so check common areas around your home as well. Some grasses cause allergies, such as rye, so it is best to choose buffalo grass or another ground cover for lawns.

Mold in the garden is another problem for asthmatics. You will normally eradicate mold inside your house, but the garden is often overlooked. In 2010, a research team at the University of Leicester in the UK found that sputum from asthma patients contained common garden mold. The most likely sources were compost and soil. So in an asthma-safe garden, avoid open compost bins and heaps.

Check for other places where mold and fungus can grow, such as wood piles and rotting logs. Areas that are normally damp and shady should be opened up and allowed to dry out. An allergy and asthma-safe garden also allows sufferers to be able to work in their gardens as well as relax. Potting mix, compost and other garden soil can create allergic reactions, so sufferers should wear a mask to keep mold spores from entering their airways. Wear a mask if you grow mushrooms or, if someone else in the family has an allergy, keep your mushroom farms under cover in a basement or garage. For seriously affected asthmatics, it may be safer to remove them altogether and get your mushrooms from the supermarket.

Outdoor furniture can be another mold hazard, so check your installations, tarps and sheds, Air them thoroughly after winter and wash down any item that has mildew on it. Make a homemade solution of half a cup of powdered borax to one cup of hot water and one cup of cold and put it in a spray bottle. This will remove the mildew and the cushions, chairs and other items can be left out to dry on a sunny day.

With these simple precautions and careful planting, you can make your garden a haven that everyone can enjoy.

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When A Friend Moves Away: Nurturing Longtime Friendships

Friendships are one of your life’s most precious gifts. Knowing someone for many years and sharing good times, bringing in the New Year, taking trips together, births, deaths, and your personal feelings, creates a bond that can be as strong as the closeness you feel to your blood-relatives.

Because ties to another person can run so deep when an extraordinary friend moves away, it can feel like a tremendous loss. But there are concrete measures you can take to ensure that you and your friend remain close to one another in spite of the miles that separate you.

Before your special friend packs up and moves away, a going away party is always a fantastic way to let him or her know how much this close relationship has meant to you. It’s time to invite all your friend’s office buddies, family members, and your mutual friends to a party. This type of farewell can make a situation that is bittersweet become a symbol of how appreciated and loved the guest of honor is in your community.

You may want to hold the gathering at your home, a restaurant, or another public party space. Along with refreshments and appetizers, it’s always fun to have a festive cake decorated with the honoree’s name and a symbolic saying or figure that everyone at the party will recognize as emblematic of their friend’s personality, vocation, or pastime.

Guests may bring small, thoughtful gifts for the friend who is moving away, such as:

• an address book with everyone’s address, email moniker, and telephone number
• a journal in which every guest can write a short “goodbye” note
• a picture frame in which to put a group picture of everyone at the party

Or, everyone can contribute toward one present such as a gift card for buying items for the new home; a set of leather luggage tags; or a work of art by a local artist.

Don’t forget that as hard as it may be to have a close friend move away, the anxiety and stress of moving to a new location, a new job, and making new friends are even more troubling for the mover.

Some things friends can do to alleviate the hassles of moving include:

• offering to help pack up household items
• watching the friend’s children for a weekend so he or she can work on organizing for the move
• taking a supper to the friend’s house for a few days before the move
• researching family-friendly activities in and around the area to which the friend is relocating

It might be fun to set up a flexible schedule of calls, emails, conference calls, and funny cards for a few months just so the friend feels supported, cared for, and thought about as he or she navigates the “moving to a new place” waters. Email, Facebook, texting, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and so many more social media sites make staying in touch easier than it has ever been.

Though it may sound foreign in today’s culture, writing a note that is sent by “snail mail” can be a delightful surprise for your dear friend. Finding a card or letter in the mailbox is so rare that your friend is bound to be surprised and uplifted to receive a real letter or card.

Many friends plan an occasional trip together to enjoy a vacation and to catch up with what has transpired in their lives since they were last together. This type of in-person reunion always makes a big difference in ensuring that friendships stay vibrant and active. From going to a state park and camping together to meeting at someone’s home that is centrally located, finding a way to unite does not have to be exorbitantly costly or complicated.

Anyone who has a friend who moves away will experience these feelings:

• When you finally see your friend, you feel there’s a rush to make up for the time you’ve been apart.
• You’d really like for everyone else to not intrude on your catch-up time.
• You remember how really close you and your friend are.
• You realize that you always have each other’s backs.

Close friendships can survive, even across long distances. As a greeting card once said, “True friends are never apart. Maybe in distance but never in heart.” And, what about that old camp song? “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”

It is worth every minute you invest in keeping close ties with treasured buddies, so do whatever it takes to make sure the ties remain tight.


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